Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Does Divorce Affect Parenting Ability?

A recent study conducted by a University of Alberta, Canada researcher concludes that divorced parents generally parent about as well after a divorce as they were before the divorce. Most people tend to expect that parenting suffers after a divorce, but that is apparently not always true. There are certainly cases and situations where the stress, conflict and other difficulties of a divorce cause problems for parents, but generally, it seems that parenting behavior is not changed significantly by a divorce. In other words, good parents will still usually be good parents.

The study makes sense from my perspective of over 30 years of divorce work. The problem situations arise when a parent who lacks some skills, experience or confidence in parenting suddenly is on his or her own in caring for children. Parents who weren't very involved before the divorce rarely suddenly become excellent parents. Parents who were inappropriate with children before divorce will probably remain the same. Excellent parents will also very likely continue to be great parents.

Many courts, especially here in Tarrant County, will automatically order the parties to go to parenting classes. That doesn't hurt, but it also may not lead to much improvement if the parents are already doing a pretty good job. It might be time to come up with a way to screen parents and create several different parenting classes that can provide help in specific ways, rather than taking a "one size fits all" approach. A basic parenting skills course, for example, could be of enormous benefit to parents who are not used to the responsibilities of parenting. Of course, until that is done, I will continue to suggest that both parents, in virtually every divorce I handle, go to at least the basic co-parenting class. Our local class is well-taught and the parents and children seem to benefit.

Thanks to Ben Stevens who writes the great South Carolina Family Law Blog which had a post about the study that was previously reported by the Rosen Law Firm of North Carolina and their excellent blog, KramerVs.

1 comment:

Mark Merenda said...

I read somewhere: the amount of trauma to your child will depend on the quality of your relationship AFTER the divorce. The quality of your relationship after the divorce will depend on how you behave DURING the divorce.